Joan Fitzgerald

Joan Fitzgerald is professor and director of the Law, Policy and Society graduate program at Northeastern University. Her forthcoming book is Emerald Cities: Urban Sustainability and Economic Development.

Recent Articles

Getting Serious About Good Jobs

How to generate more good jobs for Americans? Conventionally, policy-makers and economists give great weight to two strategies -- education and economic development. Presumably, a better educated workforce will command higher pay. And economic development will generate more jobs, one hopes good jobs. But there are limits to what these two approaches can accomplish, given how they are practiced through flawed government policies in the face of new global conditions. Education per se no longer guarantees good jobs. There is a glut of liberal arts graduates. Global trade has put tens of millions of American workers, however well-trained, into direct competition with low-paid Asian and other third-world workers. In many occupations, increased training makes sense only if we upgrade the character of the jobs. Otherwise, a nurse aide or day-care worker can study more about her craft, but still earn dismal wages. America in fact had a much more equal distribution of income half a century ago...

Raising the Bar

Lilliana Diaz has operated a child-care business in her Lowell, Massachusetts, home for more than four years. Often rising before dawn and putting in 10-hour days, she guides eight toddlers through a busy schedule of reading, playtime, meals, and more. To get to this point, Diaz completed a 63-hour training course, then earned a Childhood Development Associate (CDA) credential, and is now working toward an associate's degree. But because Massachusetts, like 32 other states, does not reimburse family child-care providers based on their education level, she makes the same as a provider who has just 15 hours of course work -- the bare minimum required by the state. The same is true for workers in most child-care centers; there is little pay differentiation even for workers with college degrees. In both family day-care settings (a small number of children in the provider's home) and child-care centers (more formal and larger), the quality of care is more custodial than developmental. Only...

Pathways to Good Jobs

Low-wage jobs cause stagnant living standards only when they are dead-end jobs. Deliberately designed occupational pathways can enable people to move up as they acquire more skills: Entry-level wages may be low, but people advance beyond them. A plumbing apprentice, a junior associate in a law firm, a medical intern or a news clerk at a metropolitan paper are all low-paid workers on the first rung of a well-paid career. To a very limited extent, career ladders also exist for lower-status jobs in services and manufacturing. A small number of nurse aides advance to nurses, day-care workers to teachers, chambermaids to concierges, tellers to loan officers and factory assemblers to skilled machinists. So why not extend this model to the rest of society? Many career-ladder initiatives are being implemented today by community colleges and organizations, unions and government agencies, as well as employers and employer groups. But can this promising approach offset the broader trends in the...

Caring for Children as a Career

H igh-quality child care is the biggest missing element in welfare-to-work efforts. Despite additional funding under welfare reform, the care available to most low-income women and their children is usually custodial and unreliable. Many former welfare recipients themselves work providing child care -- at low wages in unstable employment. So upgrading child care would actually serve three related goals: It would provide a key work support for mothers. It would improve outcomes of at-risk children. And it would raise the earnings and career horizons of many people formerly on welfare, serving as a model of how to upgrade low-wage work. Unfortunately, Congress neither acknowledges the need nor provides adequate funds. The 1996 welfare law consolidated four federal child-care programs into block grants to states under the Child Care Development Fund. Total federal and state spending on child care roughly doubled between 1996 and 2000. In 2001 the fund committed $4.5 billion to child care...

Better-Paid Caregivers, Better Care

N obody is happy with the nation's nursing homes. Too many patients are receiving substandard care. Workers, particularly nurse's aides who provide the majority of direct care, suffer from low wages, lack of benefits, understaffing, inadequate training, and limited career opportunities. Families are often appalled at how their loved ones are treated. Owners and managers struggle with government reimbursements that do not allow higher pay or better treatment. Clearly, the $96.2-billion-a-year nursing home industry is failing its residents and workers. Government is deeply implicated, since the majority of nursing home bills are paid by Medicaid or Medicare. Yet the Bush administration's tax-and-budget program precludes a national strategy to upgrade nursing homes and professionalize the caregivers who work in them. States vary widely in their strategies. Massachusetts and California have made recent gains in upgrading care quality and professionalizing care. In Florida, with its large...

Pages